The sky had already darkened to black by the time he arrived. The rune carved on the green door glowed in the darkness.
How the wizard could do that, he was not sure. More so he couldn't be sure the Hobbit who resided here was trustworthy.
Dwalin didn't trust others easily. Not because he was distrustful by nature. No. Being the head of the Palace Guard, a mercenary, and a member of the Erebor Army, trust was something he learned not to give out freely.
He pounded his fist on the door three times and glanced around. The cobblestone walkway was nicely kept free of moss and the lawn was neat and the little hill covered in various flowers.
This was a burglar they were meeting, wasn't it?
Well, so long as this was the place and there would be food, Dwalin decided to overlook the flower garden.
The door opened. The small creature before him blinked. His hair was curly and the shade of copper. His eyes were blue like the sky. The ears were pointy like an Elf's (Thorin's going to love that). Like the rest of his race, he seemed fairy-like, save for his large, hairy feet, the same shade and curl as that on his head. He wore trousers and a shirt. Hanging off his shoulders was a bathrobe.
This was the burglar the wizard said would aid them?
"Dwalin," he said, bowing to the Hobbit, "At your service."
The hobbit pulled his robe around him and tied it shut. "Bilbo Baggins, at yours."
Dwalin straightened and stepped inside, tossing his cloak to Bilbo Baggins. "Is it this way, Laddie? Is it over here?" Dwalin looked about.
"Supper," he said. "He said there'd be food and lots of it."
The hobbit furrowed his brow, following Dwalin into the kitchen.
Dwalin did not answer, sitting down at the small table and digging into the fish and what ever else was there. Well, he didn't know if the Hobbit was a burglar, but dang, he could cook!
A few minutes passed and the plate was empty.
"Very good this."
"Thanks," Bilbo mumbled.
"Is there any more?"
Bilbo gaped at him. "Oh. Um. Yes. Here."
He placed a platter of bread rolls before Dwalin, his hands behind his back. Dwalin stuffed two in his mouth at one time. The journey left him more famished than he thought.
"It's just…um…I wasn't expecting visitors—"
The door bell rang.
"That'll be the door."
"I'm well aware," Bilbo sighed, going to the door.
While the Hobbit went to see who was at the door, Dwalin spotted a jar filled with brown biscuits. He stared at the bread rolls before him then at the treats he had long sought for days! Rolls left abandoned, he picked up the jar and tried to fish out a biscuit.
Dwalin looked up, feeling like a child caught by his Mum. Balin approached, grinning. The guilt passed. At least it wasn't Thorin or he'd never live it down.
"Ev'ning, Brother," Balin greeted.
Dwalin set the jar down. "By my beard," he said, "You're shorter and wider last we met."
"Wider. Not shorter. Sharp enough for both of us still."
That is a lie, Dwalin thought, setting his hands on Balin's shoulders. He could name many a time he had outsmarted Balin with or without Thorin (and Frerin when the younger son of Thrain lived).
When he was younger, he'd point out as many times as he could at besting Balin.
Being older than he was the last he saw Balin, he let it slide for now.
They slammed their heads into each other, a sign of brotherhood.
"Um, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I wasn't expecting any visitors until tomorrow morning, as I discussed with Gandalf earlier," Bilbo said. "You see, I've nothing ready."
"That's fine, there's still time until everyone else gets here, Laddie," Balin sad, clapping the Hobbit's back. Bilbo stumbled, his legs buckling under him. He fell to the floor, banging his knees "You all right, Lad?"
"Yeah. I'm fine." Dwalin picked him up. Bilbo's feet dangled off the ground. "Could you, um, put me down, please?" Dwalin set him down on his feet.
"Where's the pantry?" Balin asked.
"Well, didn't Gandalf tell you how many were coming?"
"No—no. Don't you—hey!"
"Found it," Dwalin said.
Bilbo stared at them and threw his hands up. "I give up. Please excuse me a moment." He walked down the hall. Balin and Dwalin watched him go.
"You think this is the right house?" Dwalin asked.
"It has the mark, don't it?"
"Then it's the right house. Not sure what Gandalf's thinking, though…bit scrawny for a burglar and doesn't seem all too kind…then again he did say he was expecting us in the morning."
"Are we early, then?"
"No. Gandalf said tonight. I know he said tonight."
Bilbo returned, dressed in day-clothes. "I don't mean to be rude," he said, "But I really wasn't expecting anyone until nine o'clock tomorrow morning."
"We're to be off long before then, Laddie," Balin said. "Perhaps Gandalf wasn't clear with you, then?"
"He said nine o'clock. He didn't say it would be at night. I had said I'd meet with him and the others tomorrow. So…"
"There'll be thirteen of us."
"Oh, Eru…blasted Wizard! Help me get the dining table out and after which I'll need some help in the kitchen." The door rang again. Bilbo paused. "I'll be back in a moment." He headed to the door. Balin and Dwalin looked at the dining table. How were they going to fit everyone in? They'd have to move the table into the hallway.
"Mr. Dwalin," Kili greeted, "and Mr. Balin."
"Need another pair of hands?" Bilbo asked. No one answered. "Okay, I'll start dinner—no one goes into the pantry."
The doorbell rang again. Dwalin spied the hobbit huff and storm to the door again.
"YOU COULD HAVE TOLD ME THEY WERE COMING TONIGHT!"
"I was perfectly clear on the time, Bilbo Baggins," Gandalf snapped defensively. "It's not my fault if you have wax in your ears."
Bilbo turned to the newcomers. "Who can cook among you?"
"That'd be me," Bombur answered.
"Come help me then. Four hands will feed fifteen mouths faster than two."
"Master Boggins is quite hospitable even if he seems a bit on edge," Kili said.
"It's Baggins," Balin snapped. "A little respect, boy, for the host."
"I'm sorry, I really did think it was Boggins!"
Dwalin rolled his eyes and watched the others familiarize himself with the smial. He had not seen anyone else, save his own kinsmen, in the Hobbit's house.
"Do you know if he has any family?" Balin asked. "You were here first."
"I have seen no one."
"Bilbo is single," Gandalf informed them. "I wouldn't choose a husband or father. They already have responsibilities to heart and home."
"While that's true…" Balin said. He looked at Dwalin, who slumped his shoulders. This would be a problem.
"Oh. I had forgotten that," Gandalf said.
"This sets us back further than we already are," Balin sighed. "Even if he is available to go, he can't if he has no family to go with him."
"He is not a Dwarf," Gandalf said. "Your customs and rules ought not to apply to Bilbo."
"We'll discuss it when Thorin comes," Dwalin said. Balin nodded, agreeing to the suggestion.
"Where is Thorin, by the way?" Gandalf asked.
"He's coming from a meeting with our kin from Ered Luin."
"That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!"
Dishware flew through the air. The poor Hobbit chased after his dishes, screaming about their fragility. Balin shook his head.
"All of them act like children. Some of them are children."
"Well, they got to grow up sometime," Dwalin reminded Balin. "This venture might give 'em the kick in the arse they need."